Below on the left, you’ll find a letter to the editor about a majority of the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees’ voting to keep Bethune and Mt. Pisgah elementary schools open.
The matter took up most of the second half of the board’s May 3 meeting. What got lost in reporting the rather surprising outcome of that vote was something of a good surprise: a report on just how different the Continuous Learning Center (CLC) is now compared to when I arrived here nearly 16 years ago.
No longer is the CLC where “bad kids” are sent. For those of us who always thought about the center this way, you might be surprised to learn it’s now a place where students often choose to go to get help.
Just as I reported not long ago about differences the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) guidance counselors are making in schools across the county, the CLC has made changes based on work a committee undertook beginning in 2013. It’s one piece of the district’s goal of offering “a continuum of alterntive services,” as KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instruction Dr. Alisa Taylor put it.
First of all, did you know former Lugoff-Elgin High School Principal Tommy Gladden is the CLC’s director? I’m sorry to admit I didn’t because after the May 3 presentation, I’m not sure the district could have picked anyone better.
This school year, 83 students are attending the CLC. The hope, Taylor said, is to provide for students’ success. Here’s a statistic showing its programs and the others under the “alternative services” umbrella are working: during the 2012-13 school year, the district expelled 553 students. To date during this school year, officials have only expelled 28 students.
Gladden said the CLC has changed “drastically” during the last five years.
“We started with a program that was of a strict discipline model to, today, a model that is more individualized; it’s a more student-centered approach. Today, our students attend CLC mostly by choice. The majority of our students no longer are placed there by the hearing officer,” he said.
Gladden said the center looks at students acadmically, emotionally and developmentally, and then structures programs around individual needs to assure student success. The CLC, he said, now offers itself as a place of hope and opportunity.
“There’s not a typical CLC student today,” Gladden. “What we have today is students who attend CLC.”
The CLC now offers day, night and even virtual programs of study. The major challenge the center is trying to meet is getting students, especially seniors, who are off track from graduation back on track.
Just this school year, Gladden said, 21 students have earned 57 units of credit; 16 of them have earned an additional 38 units of credit, and are moving toward graduation. The CLC, he said, is doing its best to keep kids from dropping out of school. In addition, CLC middle schoolers are gaining as much as 20 points or more on MAP testing.
The CLC, he said, is helping students learn coping skills and get rid of distractions from learning.
KCSD Director for Special Education Terry McGovern said the CLC is serving 18 special education students helping them to obtain diplomas or certificates.
But why take their word for it? Two parents spoke to the board and said their respective children, both with various behavioral issues, got the attention and help they needed. One parent said her child moved forward enough to participate in an academic bowl; the other simply said his child had “blossomed” and said he was grateful there was a place like the CLC to get them on track.
I am glad to hear this. Any one of us who are parents may have a child who could benefit from what the CLC has to offer.
Every student should feel they have the opportunity to learn no matter what their “problems” may be. It sounds like that’s exactly what the CLC is offering.